(Never Again) - Report of Conadep
Secret Air Force detention centres
On 31 March and 2 June 1984, the Commission on the Disappeared carried out inspections of what is now the 14th Women's Squad of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police, some 200 metres from the intersection of the General Ricchieri motorway and the ring road (Bridge No. 12), in La Matanza, Buenos Aires province. The aim was to verify if this building had been used as a secret detention centre, as numerous testimonies lodged with the Commission had maintained. Fernández Meljide says in a deposition regarding the first of these visits:
We travelled together with the witnesses Susana Caride, Norma Leto and Nora Bernal, and at the point of arrival the car turned off the road, taking a track turning sharply to the right, and mounted a small embankment at the roadside. The other cars following with the other Commission workers and witnesses did likewise. Caride, Leto and Bernal simultaneously said the movement that the car had just made was the same they had experienced at the time of their journey immediately following their abduction, when they travelled, already blindfolded, on the floor of the car taking them from El Atlético to the next concentration camp.'This is the place: we came through here on our way to the cells.' (Miguel Angel Benitez, file No. 436.)
'The black and white-tiled patio is where we were stripped and searched, only now it has been divided up with two or three walls, but I am in absolutely no doubt that this is where I was held on two occasions.' (Nora Bernal, file No. 3890.)
Tension and nervousness were in evidence as the group went back to the place that, from the end of 1977 until mid-1978, had functioned as 'EI Banco'. The group began the investigation in an orderly fashion, but soon they dispersed and ran about recognizing different places with genuine excitement. They identified the kitchen, the operating theatre, the sick bay, the corridors, the 'tubes', the toilets, etc. where they had lived in the midst of
'the reigning savagery and terror, throughout which the cries of one's companions being beaten and tortured were continuous, day and night.' (Norma Leto, file No. 3764.)
Both the Commission's architect and the photographer were in constant demand by the ex-prisoners, in order to record the details and the relevant features that would confirm that they, and many others, had been held in captivity there.
The doors are the same, except that the little spyhole there previously has been soldered in, and there is now a much larger one ...
this is the 'tube' where I was a prisoner alongside Elsa Lombardo ... over there was the kitchen where they vaccinated us against hepatitis ... I am certain that this is the place where I was hidden and tortured and locked up, first in a cell that was always full of water, and then transferred to another cell located on the right-hand side of the second sector. (Susana Caride, file No. 4152.)
For his part, the witness Casalli Urrutia recognized the place located in the first sector, at the end of the passage, where he was thrown on the floor for a week, together with ten other people, adding that at this time (June 1978) the camp was filled to capacity, since there were three or four people in each 'tube'.
Marina Patricia Arcondo demonstrated while she went over the place with officials of the Commission how:
There were a number of items we recognized from beneath our blindfolds, and we can see them now, exactly as they were. Hector Ramirez, the architect, was in this room, and next door to him my husband Rafael Arnaldo Tello and his brother, both since disappeared, They sat me down next to the offices serving as the 'operating theatre', and I could hear the howls of people undergoing torture, including those of my husband.
She added that they had told her that everything removed from the prisoners' homes was taken by way of a contribution for the centre. Moreover, the entire furnishing of El Banco was stamped with the inscription 'DIPA' (Intelligence Department of the Federal Police).
When motorway roadworks necessitated the demolition of El Atlético, the officers and NCOs who worked there, together with a number of the prisoners, were removed to this new secret centre.
Other evidence indicates General Suárez Mason's presence at El Banco (file Nos. 2529, 4124 and 4151). As in the case of El Atlético, this secret detention centre was run by several groups: the Federal Police Intelligence Service, Task Forces 1 to 4, and the FTE (Special Task Forces).
At the end of the Commission's inspection, once our architect produced his plans, we could see that they concurred exactly with various rough sketches already in the Commission's possession, drawn by the witnesses themselves out of their most searing memories.